Theo Witsell (Litlle Rock, Arkansas) has a university-degree in ecology & environmental science and works in biodiversity conservation. While still studying he published half-a-dozen issues of the “smart punx’ journal of dissident knowledge”: Spectacle, a respected, thoughtful and widely read zine. It was always great to find his smart letters in the mail and I was glad I could help distribute his publications. He sold copies of my zine through his “non-profit, D.I.Y. literature distribution service” (Tree Of Knowledge). Theo did Spectacle from 1993 to 1999) and Tree of Knowledge from 1996 to 1999.
I never got to see his first 2 issues. #2 (1994) was a compilation of articles, comics and drawings done by many different people. (Subjects: childhood, religion, Theo’s reasons for being vegan, punk-rock, biodiversity, Zapata, etc.) There was also an interview with ‘J Church’…
Spectacle #3 (1995) contained lengthy talks with the Canadian band ‘Propagandhi’ & photographer Andy Strivers, a comic by Ben Nichols and writings on frat-fun, why big corporations are bad news, ‘work will set you free’, political prisoner Mark Curtis, etc. It came with a small booklet ‘Ahimsa – A Comprehensive D.I.Y. Guide To Non-Violent Revolution In The Kitchen’ (issue #3.5) that dealt with veganism, health & ecology.
In Spectacle #4 (1996) Theo reflects on being called ‘sell-out’ and ‘adult’. I cite: “The zine’s low key but attractive and easy-to-read design reflects contents which have also been put together with care: short essays on adulthood and idealism, pictures from a weekend caving-trip with two pre-teen cousins, accounts of junior high pranks and thoughts about a semi-rural house/punk rock retreat he lived in which was encroached upon by developers. There are also interviews with an ex-roommate (about his friend’s train-hopping adventures) and with poet/activist Wendy-O-Matic, as well as ten columns by other people, including a prisoner in Indiana, a Belgian zine-editor, a young woman whose parents just broke up and even the editor’s artist mother. Hearteningly cynicism-free.”. Spectacle #4.5 is a diary of Theo’s traveling across the U.S. and up to Canada. That was originally intended as tour-diary of ‘Scout’, the band he used to play bass in.
Spectacle #5 (1999) was a split with Jen Angel’s Fucktooth #24: “A collaborative effort examining the effects of technology (& its corporate control) on our lives and the world.”. A review goes: “The writers do an excellent job breaking down large issues into clear, concise essays. Jen starts with the luddites, and the class and social issues concerning technology. Other topics include hacking, nuclear arms in Israel, lifestylism, the media, biotechnology and computers. There are interviews with two young people trying to make a difference, both of which are interesting and hope inspiring. Excellent writing that teaches, agitates and inspires.”.
Of course the content of Spectacle was very interesting but the layout of Theo’s zines was also always neat. In a booklet entitled Tips For Zine Geeks he explained The Art of Making Zines (content – design – printing – distribution).
In Jen Angel’s later zine Clamor it was announced that Theo was working on a project documenting “the biological and cultural diversity being lost to urban sprawl” but that never came to fruition. He did a single issue of EcoZine about conservation-biology and environmental activism with his friend Chris(topher) Tracey.
As an example of Theo’s work I re-publish the interview he did with Wendy-O Matik (Wendy Millstine), the wellknown writer (e.g. Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships), poet, performance- & spoken word artist and radical love activist.